R.E.M.’s Peter Buck Recalls Guitar Ransom Drama
When R.E.M.’s Peter Buck was reunited with his favorite guitar after it was stolen in 2008, he was delighted. But at the time he didn’t divulge the full details of the drama behind the moment.
In a recent interview with the Daily Express, he revealed that someone close to the band had taken the guitar from the stage in Finland and then demanded 100,000 euros for its return. A biker gang helped with the instrument's recovery.
“It was an inside job, and I was furious,” Buck said. “While our legal team were working it out, some fearsome fellows were riding around on motorbikes, explaining to people we thought were connected to the theft, ‘Somebody knows something, and we're going to find out.’ ... We explained to the idiot who stole the guitar, ‘If you “find” this guitar, you get to be the good guy, and you can have 10,000 euros. But if you press on, that's extortion, and you'll get up to 30 years in prison.’ He took the 10,000 euros.”
The guitarist said he “felt bad” over the treatment given to the Rickenbacker 360, which he had used on every R.E.M. album and had bought after two other guitars were stolen. “I had to play it and sweat on it again, as I'd been thinking, ‘Some real scumbag has held this for a week,’” he recalled. “The Beatles, the Who and the Byrds played Rickenbackers, so to me it seemed like the ultimate rock 'n' roll guitar. But when I started to play guitar in the ‘70s, I don't recall ever seeing one. You just couldn't find them in the south of the United States, where I grew up.”